Traditional Trapani fish couscous

Fish couscous is a traditional dish from Trapani, a town on Sicily’s western coastline. This recipe features a modern flair, but still comes from a Trapani native: Agostino D'Angelo, Executive Chef at Villa Sant’Andrea, A Belmond Hotel, Taormina Mare. Although couscous is thought to belong in Arabic dishes, centuries ago Tunisian and Trapani fishermen exchanged culinary influences that live on today.

A chef grinds ingredients with a pestle and mortar on a steel kitchen worktop alongside fresh seafood and shellfish

Trapani fish couscous

Ingredients (serves 4)

  • 600g / 20 oz fish for the broth (we recommend scorpionfish, tub gurnard or grouper)
  • 100g / 3 ½ oz prawns (we use Mazara del Vallo prawns)
  • 120g / 4 ½ oz clams
  • 150g / 5 oz tub gurnard
  • 200g / 7 oz squid
  • ½ onion
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • Parsley, to taste
  • 100g / ⅓ cup almonds
  • 2 tablespoons tomato purée
  • 280g / 10 oz couscous
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 lemon
  • 100ml extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt, to taste


Prepare the fish broth:

  • Add your almonds, parsley, garlic, onion and olive oil to a blender and blitz.
  • Remove half the mixture and set aside for later. Add the other half to a saucepan and cook for 6 minutes.
  • Add the tomato puree and cook for a further 3 minutes.
  • Add the cleaned, filleted fish and cover with cold water. Cook for 30 minutes.
  • Strain the broth and keep it on the side—you’ll need it to prepare the couscous later. Keep the fish on the side to be served when the dish is ready.

Prepare the couscous:

  • Take your almond, parsley, garlic, onion and olive oil that you set aside earlier and mix it with your couscous.
  • In a saucepan, add your lemon, cloves, cinnamon and bay leaves to simmering water. Steam your couscous in a stovetop bain-marie for 75 minutes.
  • Once cooked, put the couscous in a bowl and slowly add the fish broth. Stop when the couscous is not absorbing the broth anymore.
  • Leave the couscous to rest for 2 hours.
  • Sear the prawns, squid and tub gurnard in a frying pan until cooked.
  • Boil the clams in some of the fish broth until they open.
  • Add the prawns, clams, squid, tub gurnard and some of the fish used to prepare the broth to the couscous. Add a final dash of the fish broth to serve.

Buon appetito!

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